It was my mother’s birthday. We were performing a selection of stories and poems celebrating women. Bhagirathi Narayan and I were waiting for our turns on stage. Bhagyam told me about her holiday in Australia, and about her experiences on Ayers Rock. She told me about the nights she spent under starry skies and how the rock appeared to change colour. Her eyes lit up as she described the changing landscape. She said she would tell me all about it after the performance. She took her place in the spotlight and began reciting her poem. She delivered the first two verses with gusto. Then she stopped. That was unnatural. She hadn’t rehearsed it that way. Then she fell face first on the floor. I was the first to reach her. I took her in my arms. She was struggling to breathe. She started heaving and gasping for breath. I did not know what to do. I was helpless. I hadn’t rehearsed for this. I did not know how to help her. All I did was hold her while she breathed her last. Death came suddenly and snatched from us an inspiring and exemplary human being. Death forced her to make a hasty exit but the memory of her has not faded out. For a few moments, real life took over stage and shook my reality. You can never truly prepare for stage.